Hyperloop in Science Fiction

Written by Jiayang Feng

One of the most interesting points of science is that it is gradually turning science fiction into reality. For instance, the first submarine in the world is delivered by the famous novelist Jules Verne in his famous novel “ Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea” (Vingt mille lieues sous les mers). Besides, Jules Verne also put up other inventions like helicopter, 3D movies as well as telegram in his novels, which gave huge inspirations to the inventors later on.

Actually, Elon Musk’s idea, to describe the hyperloop as something that is a “cross between a Concorde, a railgun and an air hockey table,” and that it could go from San Francisco to New York City in 30 minutes is also originated in science fiction.

Originally, the hyperloop idea was firstly published by the famous science fiction novelist Jules Verne’s son- Michel Verne in his 1888 story, “An Express of the Future.” It is the earliest mention of travel by tubes in science fiction. The story imagines riding air-driven carriages in submarine tubes from Boston to Liverpool, England in 2 hours and 40 minutes and reaching speeds of 1,800 kilometers per hour.

Besides Michel Verne, other science fiction novelists like Arthur C. Clarke and Larry Niven (1976’s “A World out of Time,” portrayed a gravity-assisted subway) also featured similar ideas on transportation. And in 1972, Robert A. Heinlein wrote about “vacutubes” in his 1956 story “Double Star.”

“We hit the sub-basement and went at once to the express tubes. A two passenger capsule was just emptying; Dak shoved me in so quickly that I did not see him set the door combination… The few minutes we had been crammed in the vacutube had been long enough for me to devise a plan…”

From “Double Star”


As we can see, science fiction ideas often have served as a starting point from which to build upon science fact. Inventors get inspirations from novels to take the idea into reality, and the idea of traveling incredibly fast in tubes across cities, entire continents or under oceans has been around for quite some time.  So, never look down upon human’s imaginations.



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